By Andrew Irumba
The UPDF Chief of Defence Force (CDF), Gen.David Muhoozi has ordered for the arrest and detention of the army officers who were involved in clobbering journalists who were covering the ‘free Bobi Wine protests’ in the city on Monday.
Demonstrations broke out on Monday morning in Kisekka Market over the arrest and detention of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine.
The protests would later spread to various areas in the city including Nasser road, Kampala Road, Namirembe Road and Katwe among other areas prompting both the police and military to swing into action to quell them.
In one incident along Nakivubo Mews, Reuters photojournalist James Akena was badly flogged by the military and despite his efforts to put his arms up as a sign of surrendering, the soldiers continued beating and kicking him.
However, according to a statement by the army spokesperson, Brig. Richard Karemire, the CDF has taken measures to discipline the UPDF officers for the act of indiscipline.
“Attention has been brought to the leadership of the UPDF about the unprofessional conduct of soldiers who molested some journalists while deployed on a joint operation in the capital city on Monday 20, August 2018,”reads in part, Brig.Karemire’s statement.
“UPDF wishes to express its displeasure over such behaviour by those individuals and as a result, the Chief of Defence Forces has ordered for their arrest and punishment.”
The scene at Nakivubo Mews saw one of the soldiers resort to shooting at other journalists who were trying to capture the inhumane manner in which Akena was being brutalized and was later arrested.
Other journalists including Observer’s Alfred Ochwo, Ronald Ggaliwango and Juma Kiirya(both of NTV) were beaten before being arrested by the military.
However, the army spokesperson has apologized for the indecent manner exhibited by the soldiers saying it was regrettable.
“While expressing apologies and sympathies to the individuals on whom pain was inflicted, we wish to reiterate our strong commitment to maintain a strong partnership with the media fraternity in the course of executing all our core functions as laid out in the constitution.”
The Ugandan army has always been praised for being disciplined but the Monday incident attracted condemnation from all corners of the country.
The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in a statement released on Monday condemned the continuing attacks on, arrests and detention of Ugandan journalists by security officers saying it was not warranted.
“Clearly, the security forces that have responded to protesters in the last week want to carry out their wanton abuse of the rights of Ugandans in darkness,” said Dr Peter Mwesige, ACME’s executive director.
Speaking during Eid prayers at Kibuli Mosque, Prince Kassim Nakibinge condemned the continued attack on Uganda’s media as aimed at keeping the public in the dark on the happenings in society.
“I extend condolences to members of the press. I saw some yesterday being flogged, I said oh my God why is this person suffering,” Nakibinge said.